Just about everything went wrong for the Oakland Raiders during their 2017 campaign
The Oakland Raiders offense drastically underperformed from what was expected by many, while the defense was just as abysmal as the previous season.
Fingers can be pointed in just about every direction, but the offense will undoubtedly shoulder this season’s blame. The entire offensive unit would probably claim they each had their fair share of mistakes. Their collective humility notwithstanding, who was the most disappointing?
Before diving into a complicated sea of individual player statistics, let’s provide some context, and take a look at the entire Raiders offensive unit’s 2016 production.
Last season’s high-octane offense boasted a sixth overall ranking in total yards gained (5,973). Known for their dynamic receivers and cannon-wielding quarterback, the Raiders actually checked in at No. 13 in passing yards per game (253.2). Where they really excelled, however, was on the ground, punishing opposing defenses to the tune of 120.1 yards per game. That total was good for sixth in the NFL and allowed them to control the game when leading late.
What about this season?
Well, simply put, the Raiders regressed in just about every category imaginable. In 2017, Oakland averaged 226.9 yards per game through the air (No.16), 97.1 rushing yards per game (No.25), 324 total yards per game (Tied No.17), and managed an anemic 18.8 points per game (No. 23). These numbers prove the entire offense took a giant step backward, but there were a few players who were particularly disappointing.
Along with fellow running back Jalen Richard, Washington was one member of Oakland’s three-headed rushing attack, which was instrumental to the team’s success back in 2016. He averaged 5.4 yards/carry on 87 attempts, which was good for 467 rushing yards, all while sharing the backfield with two very capable runners. Very solid, indeed.
In 2017 however, it was a very different story for Washington. In a season where the Raiders brought in veteran running back Marshawn Lynch, as a high-profile gamble, Washington really needed to step up. Lynch, having spent the past two seasons in retirement, was never expected to be the “Beast Mode” of Seattle, but would be utilized somewhat sparingly. This would place more responsibility on the shoulders of Richard and Washington.
Richard responded with a very productive season. Washington failed miserably. Though not necessarily any fault of his own, he carried the ball 30 fewer times compared to his 2016 total. His rushing yards gained dropped a whopping 67%, leading to the most eye-popping of his disappointing stats. Arguably the most telling and important stat for running backs, Washington’s yards per carry brings the picture into focus. His 5.4 YPC from 2016 was cut in half, down to a bench-warming 2.7 in 2017. The Raiders were most assuredly hurt by this disappointing trend, but Washington was definitely not alone.
Cooper & Crabtree
Wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree were two stars, shining bright and providing explosive targets for Derek Carr, throughout the 2016 season. That year, Cooper (1,153) and Crabtree (1,003) were one of just four NFL wide receiver duos to each eclipse 1,000 yards. Together, they formed arguably the league’s most dynamic receiving threat, along with their teammate, slot receiver Seth Roberts.
Cooper was a deep threat, with outstanding speed, and running back-like elusiveness in the open field. Crabtree was undeniably the team’s number one end zone target, catching corner end zone fades, and toe-tapping his way to exciting sideline grabs.
Fast forward to this past season and Raider fans were on the brink of filing missing-persons reports for both Cooper and Crabtree. The two former early first-round draft picks saw their stats drop off drastically, in a couple of areas, compared to the previous year. Cooper’s catch total dropped by 35 (down 42%), while Crabtree’s fell by 31 (down 35%). In total receiving yards, Cooper was down 473, while Crabtree registered 385 fewer. When watching Raider games, it just seemed like their presence was considerably diminished, compared to 2016.
Outside of the yardage and reception totals, the two actually performed pretty well. Crabtree’s touchdowns equaled last year’s total, and Cooper hauled in two more. Their yards per reception were virtually unchanged. Dropped passes plagued Crabtree during the 2016 season, but he reduced that total from nine to five. Cooper, for all of the discussion on his drops from this year, had five as well.
Digest all of these numbers, and the evidence doesn’t necessarily suggest Cooper and Crabtree regressed.
However, something caused the dip in their production. Poor quarterback play? More defensive schemes based on limiting the duo’s opportunities? Ineffective play-calling? Odds are all those factors played a role in the disappointing season these two sensational teammates had this year.
Quarterback Derek Carr boasted a strong 2016, which launched him into the 2016 MVP discussion, and led to early bets on his MVP bid for 2017. Fresh off signing a 5 year/$125 million contract, Carr looked poised to continue his ascent toward the league’s elite quarterbacks. He had shown solid progress over each preceding season. In 2016, Carr led the Raiders to a 12-4 record, which included seven fourth-quarter comebacks. Although his campaign was cut short by injury, his quarterback play passed the “eye test” with flying colors.
Statistically speaking, his performance was cemented as MVP-caliber. His completion percentage of 63.8% left a bit to be desired, and his 3,937 passing yards placed him No.14 in the league. However, his 28 touchdown passes were tied for seventh most, and only four quarterbacks (min. 400 attempts) threw fewer interceptions than Carr’s six. Those numbers, along with their exciting style of offensive play, and machine-like fourth-quarter comebacks, were responsible for the expectations thrust upon Carr and the entire organization, for the 2017 season.
Enter the case for Carr, as most disappointing for this season. His completion percentage, which was already average, dropped by 1.1%. Carr’s passing yards, through the same number of games (15), were reduced by 441. Most egregiously, his beautiful touchdown-to-interception ratio of 4.7/1 (2016), plummeted to a very mediocre 1.7/1. He threw six fewer touchdown passes, while his interceptions more than doubled.
Having personally watched plenty of game footage, I noticed that Carr often looked uncomfortable, rushed, and even confused, which is the polar opposite of the calm and poised Carr of 2016. The cliché that quarterbacks get the credit whether the team wins or loses, is definitely applicable here. The fact is, the Raiders lived and died, according to Derek Carr’s heroic play last season. The 2017 season was unfortunately no different, save for the absence of Super-Derek.
This is why the man who wears no. 4 is my pick for 2017’s Most Disappointing Raiders Offensive Player “award.”